Sexual Battery

There are few allegations you can face that can ruin your reputation and result in stricter, longer term consequences than a sexual battery or other sex crime charge. Yet, many give up too easily when facing a sexual battery charge, assuming that the "deck is stacked against" them and they cannot win.

But the truth is that, though it is very easy to be accused of sexual battery in California, and though it takes an experienced defense attorney to maximize your chances of defeating such a charge, nonetheless, many sexual battery cases do in fact end in dismissal or acquittal.

At Leah Legal, we understand the details of PC 243.4 and other parts of the California Penal Code relevant to sexual battery cases, and we have longtime experience in successfully winning these types of cases in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California.

To learn more about our top-tier criminal defense services or to avail yourself of a free legal consultation concerning the details of your case, do not hesitate to call us anytime 24/7 at 818-484-1100.

How Is "Sexual Battery" Defined in California?

California Penal Code (PC) Section 243.4 criminalizes and assigns penalties to what is called either "sexual battery" or "sexual assault." The statute forbids one from touching another person's "intimate part" for the purpose of sexual gratification or arousal or with purposefully abusive intent.

Many confuse sexual battery with other crimes like rape or sexual molestation, but in reality sexual battery is a different (if similar) crime.

While any kind of illegal and/or unwanted sexual touching can count as sexual battery, there are several specific sub-categories of this crime you should be aware of:

  1. Sexual assault while the victim is restrained: Subsection (a) of PC 243.4 covers sexual assault of someone who is unlawfully restrained and sexually touched against his/her will.
  2. Sexual assault of a disabled person: Subsection (b) of California's sexual assault statute concerns itself with crimes committed against the physically or mentally disabled.
  3. Sexual assault under false pretenses: Subsection (c) of PC 243.4 targets sexual assaults that are committed by using fraud or misrepresentation. This can happen when a physician, for example, uses an examination as a pretense for sexual touching.
  4. Sexual assault by forcing the victim to touch: Subsection (d) of the sexual assault statute deals with forcing a victim to masturbate, touch him or herself sexually, touch one or more perpetrators sexually, or touch any other person sexually against his/her will.
  5. "Ordinary" sexual assault: Subsection (e) of PC 243.4 simply deals with general sexual assault, while the previous four subsections deal with specific and somewhat more aggravated and/or unusual forms of sexual assault. However, this class is also distinguished in that no form of restraint was used and in that it is a misdemeanor crime.

What Must the Prosecution Prove?

To gain a conviction on a sexual assault charge under PC 243.4, the prosecution must prove beyond all reasonable doubt a number of different "elements of the crime."

However, each type of sexual assault has slightly different specific elements to be proved. The general (no-restraint, misdemeanor) sexual battery offense, covered in subsection (e), requires the following elements be proved:

  • The defendant touched another person's "intimate part."
  • The defendant's touching violated the will of that other person.
  • The defendant did the touching to take/give sexual pleasure of some kind and/or to purposefully abuse the victim.

To prove sexual assault while restraining the victim, PC 243.4 (a) or (d), the prosecutor must prove the following:

  • The defendant illegally restrained the victim or used force in the process of committing the sexual abuse.
  • The defendant touched the victim's intimate part while he/she was restrained or forced the victim to touch him or her self or another person sexually while restrained.
  • The sexual touching violating the will of the victim.
  • The sexual touching was done for the sake of sexual pleasure or abuse.

To prove sexual assault of one disabled mentally and/or physically or institutionalized under PC 243.4 (b) or (d), the prosecution must demonstrate beyond doubt the following:

  • The victim had a physical or mental disability and/or was institutionalized at the time for medical reasons (often in a hospital setting).
  • The defendant touched the victim sexually or forced him/her to engage in sexual touching.
  • The sexual touching was against the alleged victim's will.
  • The touching was done for sexual pleasure or to inflict sexual abuse.

To prove sexual battery by pretense under PC 243.4 (c), the prosecution must establish the following elements of the crime:

  • The defendant touched the alleged victim's intimate part.
  • The touching was done for the purpose of sexual gratification, arousal, or abuse.
  • The perpetrator used fraud, deception, or a pretense (like a doctor's exam) to gain sexual access to the victim.
  • The alleged sexual assault victim was not aware, at the time, of the sexual nature of the act of touching. "Consent" was only given for an act of a different nature.

Felony Versus Misdemeanor Sexual Assault

In California, sexual assault can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the details of the case, the defendant's past criminal record, and other factors.

For a misdemeanor, any physical contact whatsoever done for sexual pleasure or abuse, even if through the clothes, qualifies as "touching." And there need not have been "success" at bringing about sexual arousal or gratification nor any actual physical harm done to the victim for a misdemeanor sexual battery charge to hold.

But with felony-level sexual assault, the touching must be directly on the bare skin, there having been actual skin-to-skin contact between defendant and alleged victim and/or between victim and another party. And "intimate part" for a felony conviction must mean a male or female sex organ, the buttocks, the anus, or a female breast.

Here are some specific examples of (possibly) misdemeanor-level sexual assault:

  • Fondling the breast of a woman you don't even know without her consent.
  • Touching another person's buttock without gaining his or her consent.
  • Any form of sexual assault not deemed felony and of a relatively low level of severity.

Felony sexual assault takes on a variety of forms, including such instances as these:

  • The victim of sexual assault was unlawfully physically restrained or force was used to accomplish the act of touching.
  • The defendant held the victim in place while unzipping his/her pants and slipping his/her hand inside the underwear to fondle a sexual organ or buttocks.
  • Forcing a victim to masturbate his own penis or that of another person or to touch him or her self, the perpetrator, or another person in a sexual way.
  • Taking advantage of a physically disabled person or someone temporarily incapacitated in a hospital to commit sexual assault against him or her.
  • Duping a mentally handicapped and/or institutionalized person to take part in or allow sexual touching.
  • A doctor using his/her position of trust to convince a patient to allow sexual touching under the pretense of a medical exam.
  • A psychologist convincing a patient to allow sexual touching as part of the victim's "therapy" session.

Finally, note that if you commit an act of sexual assault against a minor (under 18 years old) and you already have a felony conviction of any kind on your criminal record, you will be charged with a felony.

As we shall see just below, the penalties for a misdemeanor vs. felony sexual assault conviction can vary greatly, so if the best outcome possible is to get a reduction from felony to misdemeanor, it is well worth fighting for.

Possible Penalties for Sexual Assault in California

Misdemeanor level sexual assault in violation of PC 243.4 is punishable as follows:

  • Up to 6 months in a county jail, but up to 12 months in certain more egregious cases.
  • A fine of up to $2,000, but up to $3,000 if the victim was your employee.
  • Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration under PC 290.

Felony level sexual assault in violation of PC 243.4 is punishable as follows:

  • From two to four years in California state prison.
  • A fine of up to $10,000.
  • Mandatory lifetime sex offender registration under PC 290.

Sex Offender Registration (PC 290)

Under California Penal Code Section 290, most convicted of sex crimes (including those convicted of misdemeanor or felony sexual assault under PC 243.4) must register with the state as sex offenders.

This is one of the most difficult parts of a sexual battery sentence to bear since it will last for the rest of your life. And if you relocate or other relevant information changes, you must update your information quickly or face additional penalties.

In registering, you must disclose your address, place of employment, and other pertinent information to local law enforcement agencies. You must resubmit this information every year. If you are homeless or a "transient" who has no permanent address, you must resubmit your information every 30 to 90 days.

If you are a student enrolled in college, you are required to register as a sex offender with the campus police besides with the local city or county police.

If you are relocating to California and already a registered sex offender in your current state, you will likely have to register as a sex offender in California as well. Conversely, if you are a registered sex offender in California and move out of state, that status will likely move with you.

All of the above-mentioned requirements are burdensome, but the worst part is that your status and information may be put in the public domain via the "Megan's Law" state website. Wherever you go, it will easy for people to find out about your past if they wish to and know how to look it up.

At Leah Legal, we understand that many innocent people are accused of sexual assault in the L.A. Area and throughout California, and that many others are over-charged by over-zealous prosecuting attorneys. We understand the true impacts a conviction will have on your future life, and we also know how to fight back in every way legally possible. For example, a skilled attorney may can sometimes get the sex offender registration requirement dropped or at least get you off of the publicly displayed Megan's Law website.

Common Defense Strategies Against Sexual Assault 

At Leah Legal, we tailor-make each defense based on the facts of the particular case, but we are also quite familiar with the most commonly applied, effective defense strategies used against a California sexual assault charge.

Some of our most commonly employed defenses against a PC 243.4 charge include:

  1. The alleged victim actually gave consent. It is not uncommon for a person who engages in consensual sexual touching to suddenly later file a sexual assault charge. It could be a way to get revenge at a past lover, a way to "save face" by pretending to friends and relatives that the act was not consensual, or it could have been a set up from the beginning.
  2. No sexual touching took place. It may be there was no intention of the defendant to bring about sexual pleasure or to abuse the alleged victim by the act of touching. This could be the case in a legitimate medical exam. It could also be that the touching was not to an intimate body part.
  3. Lack of evidence. A false accusation, mis-identification, or a weak case based on hearsay may lack the evidence to meet the high standard of "beyond all reasonable doubt." In this case, a good criminal defense attorney can likely get the charges against you dropped.

Contact Us Today For Help

Criminal defense lawyer will stand ready to rush to your aid at a moment's notice when we receive your call for help.

Our team of top-tier attorneys have deep experience in winning dismissals, acquittals, or a reduced charge/sentence in all manner of California sexual battery cases. We will know how to build you a solid defense and secure the best possible outcome to your case.

Contact our Los Angeles anytime 24/7/365 for a free initial consultation by calling 818-484-1100.